Is It Better to Check Into a Hotel In Person or Online?

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Does using a hotel’s online check in option really save time? And how does it impact your chances of upgrades or other perks?

I always go back and forth on this option, usually favoring in-person check in at hotels. Perhaps a cheerful demeanor + elite status will sway the front desk towards an upgrade more than just a computer algorithm. That’s probably silly though since usually any upgrades have been pre-determined by the hotel, but still that theory persists.

And as for saving time, it probably depends on the hotel. My invitation last weekend didn’t make it seem like it would save that much time since it still required stopping by the front desk, but I still decided to give it a try.

Hyatt fairfax online check in option

I was staying at a local Hyatt on Friday to make it easier to pre-game and catch a cheap taxi to the UFC. I wanted to arrive before before rush hour traffic but also needed to work during the afternoon so I decided to give online check in a try and request a 1PM arrival time. Perhaps the computer would be more flexible about early I could check in. 🙂

I received a confirmation page telling me I’d be emailed when my room was ready. I wound up having a last minute meeting so didn’t arrive at the hotel until about 3PM.

Still without notification that my room was ready. I approached the front desk to check in the old fashioned way. They noted I had checked in online, but that “the room I had picked” or rather the room that had been assigned online wasn’t ready. Would it be ok if they moved me to one that was?

I asked if there was anything special about the original room, as in, was it a suite or have a great view? Nope, it was the same type as the one they could move me to.

I settled into my room and got to work. An hour later I had an email letting me know my room was ready. Marketing and travel geek that I am, I found myself wondering how the room assignment technology actually works.

For now, I’m probably going to continue checking in at the hotel because even if they have a kiosk, it will take the same amount of time to check in as to retrieve my keys.

What’s been your experience?

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  1. Damon

    April 9, 2015 at 2:37 pm

    I have used Hilton’s online check-in once all it did was limit my chance for an upgrade. They told me that they couldn’t change the room assignment once I had checked in online and selected my room. That’s why I only tried it once. I haven’t tried Marriott’s version yet, and I hesitate to due to my experience with the Hilton version.

  2. Chip

    April 9, 2015 at 2:44 pm

    I think they still have a ways to go with the technology. They should give you the option of picking your room and any add-ons when you check in.

    • marcus

      February 15, 2018 at 7:18 pm

      Exactly. That would be the only reason I would do it. It would be great if it showed a hotel map, the way the airlines do and I pick the seat I want. It would be great if there was a hotel map and I can pick a room away from the elevators and also pick a room with no next door neighbors if possible.

  3. Bill G

    April 9, 2015 at 2:56 pm

    Yeah, online checkin not only doesn’t save time in my experience, it wastes it. And I get better rooms in person without even asking. A great example of technology done wrong, at least with Marriotts.

  4. AndyTLe

    April 9, 2015 at 2:58 pm

    I’ve used Hilton’s for hotels where upgrades don’t really matter (HGI, Hampton Inn). I’m able to pick the room I want (high floor, view, or away from elevator) instead of being stuck with whatever they assign me.

  5. Marc

    April 9, 2015 at 3:08 pm

    I had the opportunity to check in online at the Novotel Times Square last week but decided not to. I wasn’t seeing the benefit since I would still have to go the the counter to get my key.

    When the “unlock your door with your phone” technology will be rolled out everywhere, then it might be worth it to check in online at a hotel.

    But for a flight, I always check in online!

  6. Lee

    April 9, 2015 at 3:59 pm

    All they need is button to press to give the computer a $20 bill to help you with the upgrade. They could then monetize the check-in process too. 🙂

  7. Ed

    April 9, 2015 at 4:25 pm

    Maybe if it was enhanced to show a list of available floors and where the rooms were on each floor – similar to an airline seat map – I’d be more inclined to use this (e.g. end of the hall, near the elevator, away from the ice machine, etc.). But to leave it to random computer assignment and wait in line for the key takes away any possible advantage.

  8. Bob

    April 9, 2015 at 4:53 pm

    Hilton’s online check in was a waste of time. I spent just as much time at the counter as I would have without having done it online.

  9. Brad

    April 10, 2015 at 12:13 am

    I used to work the front desk at a hotel, I will tell you when you should and shouldn’t check in online, and why.

    I WOULD use online checkin if you…
    1) Are an Elite member that might be receiving a meet and greet or amenity in the room. We would get our most frequent guests keys waiting at the door so they would pick them up as they walk in because of this.
    2) Have requested a rare or highly desirable room type that is not guaranteed, like when you book through OTAs like Expedia. sometimes they run out of double bedded rooms, and I hope the two couples showing up late aren’t shy when they have to share a king!
    3) Special Needs, allergies, handicaps, etc.

    I would NOT use online checkin any other time, because if they do run out of rooms, most likely you can either complain and get upgraded or get some money back/free stuff.

  10. david

    April 10, 2015 at 12:27 am

    My fiance and I checked into the Hyatt Regency in Maui and I specially asked the front desk attendant that question. She said you’re more likely to get a better room checking-in in person. When you do so over an app it automatically places you in a room.

  11. Andrew

    June 5, 2018 at 5:33 pm

    One major reason to consider online check in: ensuring you actually have a room when you arrive (at least for the Hyatt Place Baltimore Inner Harbor). My wife and I booked a room there months ahead of time for our wedding night two weeks ago. When we arrived just before midnight they asked if we had “pre checked in” and we were told that they were overbooked and didn’t have a room for us. We sat in the lobby for about an hour, exhausted and still in our wedding clothes, while they tried to find us a room at another hotel nearby. During that time several other couples checked in and were quickly whisked off to their rooms. We were told that they had “pre checked in” The Hyatt didn’t even have the decency to provide us transportation to the new hotel (Hilton, which treated us very well) across town. I’ll certainly remember my experience with the Hyatt franchise for a long time, but for all the wrong reasons

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